Michael Ok. Williams, Omar from “The Wire”, died at 54
When Mr. Williams was cast as Omar on “The Wire,” he returned to Vanderveer Estates to refine his role and draw on the characters and experiences he grew up with, he told the Times in 2017.
“For many of us in the neighborhood, Mike is like the prophet of projects,” Darrel Wilds, 50, who grew up with Mr. Williams in Vanderveer, told The Times. “He represents the people of this neighborhood in the world.”
Mr Williams used his celebrity status to advocate a variety of causes, most notably criminal justice reform in both the United States and the Bahamas, and he was the ACLU’s ambassador for ending mass incarceration and appeared in a related advertising campaign.
He told the New Yorker in 2014, “Arresting people or ruining people’s lives for a small, nonviolent charge like marijuana, drug addiction or mental illness is not the way to go.” He continued, “These are health problems, not criminal problems.”
On and off the screen, Mr. Williams discussed systemic racism amid the Black Lives Matter movement. He capitalized on the legacy of American history of racism as he studied for his roles, including as the father of Antron McCray, one of the teenagers wrongly convicted of raping a woman in Central Park, for Ava DuVernay’s miniseries, When They See Us. The story was not far from him: When the prosecution began in 1989 of the five men – then teenagers – who came to be known as the Central Park Five, Mr. Williams was in his twenties and was scared of what it would be like for him as a black man lives in New York City.
“You, brother, have touched many,” wrote Ms. DuVernay in an Instagram post on Monday. “Through your large and small personal interactions, through your community activism, through your struggles, through your triumphs, through your glorious work. You moved many. You moved me. “